This final post is to answer some of your questions and to provide a few additional thoughts. So, let’s get to your questions first.
Q: What if you don’t know what you want to certify in? It seems like you have to choose which area you want to certify in, but I have no clue!
A: One of the first certifications you could get is the AFAA Primary Group certification. It’s a generic one that will let you teach a variety of classes, based on your preference and what you are comfortable with. So, for example, your gym might have an cardio/weight lifting intervals class and probably wouldn’t require a specific cert., but would just want you to have some sort of training. Does that make sense? I would also start to pay attention to what classes you really enjoy and could see yourself teaching; if you hate cycle, don’t certify in that. 🙂
Q: I have never taught an aerobic class. I don’t know a ton about the right techniques or well, let’s just say I am for sure an amateur. BUT I love working out. I love to teach ( I use to teach dance). Is there material I should be reading or something I should be doing to know more about everything with fitness?
A: My advice to get ready is to attend a lot of classes. Start to pay attention to how they cue, how they explain exercises, and especially what form/techniques they point out. There are lots of books and magazines on the topic (I like Fitness Magazine for getting ideas for new moves and this book seems like it would be pretty comprehensive for a lot of the basics without being overwhelming). There is so much to know that you can’t possibly know it all, but start to get educated. You’ll also learn a lot from your manual you’ll get with your certification.
Some ideas for getting experience teaching a group fitness class: volunteer to teach a class at your church, practice in front of your husband or a friend (yes it’s totally awkward, but it’s good practice), or see if a gym you are interested in offers co-teaching for a new instructor so you won’t be thrown into an hour-long class all by yourself on your first day.
Like a reader [I’m actually not sure of her name!] mentioned in the comments of Part 3, you might also want to think about transitioning into teaching group ex with a Zumba certification since you are already comfortable with the dance genre.
Q: Did you say there is a way to save money on your certification?
A: AFAA offers a 3-day conference called APEX. You pay $99 a day and can get multiple certifications/attend multiple workshops in one day, depending on the schedule. The classes are huge (hundreds of people I think) but that’s a huge discount. Start looking on AFAA’s website to see when they’ll have one in your area if you are interested.
Additional thoughts about teaching group ex:
- Be prepared to do a demo as a “try out” for a gym. It’s usually anywhere from 5-15 minutes, including a warm-up, examples of what you’d teach, and a cool down. Bring your own music, including a CD for backup (surprising there are still gyms out there without iPod hookups!). I think they are usually looking for your stage presence (how comfortable you are up there) and your overall energy. And to make sure you know a bicep from a quadricep. 🙂 Any readers that have ever hired instructors and can provide more advice?
- Don’t be surprised if you don’t like it as much as you thought you would at first. It took me a couple months before I really looked forward to teaching. But, that being said, I’m not really an extrovert and I kind of have to "turn on" a different personality to teach and that just took some getting used to.
- There will be days when you’d rather just workout on your own instead of teaching others. It’s just part of the deal.
- On the few occasions that I just don’t want to workout, knowing I have to teach gets me there (obviously) . And I always end up enjoying it and am happy once I’m there.
- Get to know your attendees. If they feel like they have a little connection to you, they’ll probably be more likely to come back.
- Ask for feedback from your manager or other instructors; see if they can attend a class or at least let you know any feedback they hear from members.
- If you decide to go the cheaper route with the AFAA APEX conference, know what to expect. It’s a lot cheaper, but I’ve also heard of a lot of people failing the practical exam when they do that route. The APEX conference is huge and you may not learn the little nuances that the exam proctor will look for. However, if you are knowledgeable about basic exercises, I’m sure it will be fine. [Tyler, I know you’ve gone to APEX. Any thoughts?]
- Still try to attend other people’s classes to get new ideas for moves and learn from them; there will also be someone with more experience, different experience, a different personality, different format, etc. and I think you can always learn from others.
- Substitute for others when you can. Karma exists in the world of group ex instructors and someday you’ll need a sub too.
- Have fun! Be yourself! And let me know how it goes!
Alright, I think that’s all I’ve got to say on the topic! But if you have any questions, please feel free to keep asking. And other instructors, please keep chiming in with your thoughts/experiences since I’m relatively new to this as well.